N2N-Convening Graphic by Claudia Rodriguez

Fostering Community Wellness, Resilience, and Connection: N2N Grantee Convening 2023

By: Aileen Balahadia

This year’s N2N Grantee convening was held for the first time since 2019, on September 13, 2023, at the Bethaday Community Learning Center in White Center. The theme of the evening was “Community Care, Wellness and Resilience”, a fitting tribute to the community’s efforts to uplift and support each other during such difficult times. The majority of N2N grantees over the last 3 years fell under the umbrella of “Wellness”, even if the strategies to achieve it were slightly different. The overall purpose of the Convening remained the same as in previous years, to celebrate the success of grantees, to make connections amongst diverse communities, and to learn from one another. There was a total of 104 attendees representing 72 different grantee partners, funding partners, and friends.

The Convening opened with an informal welcome and dinner featuring restaurants from small businesses of color located in one of the four N2N target neighborhoods of South Seattle, White Center, Kent, and SeaTac/Tukwila. They included: Olympic Express, Salvadorean Bakery, Nana’s Southern Kitchen, Juba Café, and Soozveen Catering.

The group was honored to receive inspirational words from Sondra Segundo, a language warrior from Haida Roots, who shared drums, songs, and stories about how her organization is preserving the Haida language. To open the evening, Alesha Washington, CEO and President of the Seattle Foundation, and Sean Goode, Chief Office of Impact and Learning of the Seattle Foundation, offered their gratitude for community partnerships and reflected on the strength of collective movements.

Following, the evening highlighted three organizations led by youth and young adults that had recently received funding from N2N. These organizations were Cultures United, represented by Sebastian Diaz (Executive Director) and Carl King (board member, substituting due to illness); Never Too Early to Create, represented by Sabrionna Barquett; and Got Your Back Seattle, where the Honorable Mohamed Abdi serves as a volunteer and City of Tukwila City councilmember. Facilitated by N2N Community Advocate from White Center, Henok Gebreyohannes, the panelists shared their testimonies, discussing what motivated them to participate in their respective organizations and the challenges they faced in reaching their current positions. The organizations focused on mental health, healthy sports activities, and youth entrepreneurship, each addressing their specific area of concern.

The final portion of the evening focused on three separate breakout options that featured community grantee partners engaged in deep, community wellness work. Participants could choose from Art Therapy with Lupita Torrez, a Latina immigrant, mother, sister, and community educator, who founded the Latina Network for Healing Leadership and Transformation. The second wellness offering was led by Join Xochitl Garcia, founder/Executive Director of Casa Surya Healings which provides holistic and ancestral practices to support the process of healing, development, and personal/collective growth of the Latino community. She led participants in a ceremonial cacao ceremony that has been used for emotional and spiritual healing for thousands of years. The last wellness offering was to join Makinie Fortino, LMFT and CEO of DMHS: Deconstructing the Mental Health System Inc. an organization whose mission is to achieve an equitable, anti-racist Mental Health System, through acknowledging how intersectionality and racism impact any system affiliated with the system. She was joined by Erika Cherry, a community therapist and wellness champion for a conversation about community care and healing while working in nonprofit settings. As attendees left the convening, they received parting gifts curated from the organizations: organic soap and healing/mediation oils.

The N2N Convening is a special tradition in our community. We look forward to doing it all again in 2024!

Photo Credit: Mel Ponder Photography

N2N Convening Graphic Recording by Claudia Rodriguez